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Santa Anita News and Notes October 16

•    The Fall meet at Santa Anita Park is halfway home as week three was completed on Sunday. Rain hit the race track on Friday evening and continued on to Saturday and was the first rainfall since last Spring, and it was very unexpected. They closed the track for workouts Saturday morning and took all the races off the turf in the afternoon. For the most part, it totally destroyed the 10 race card. Southern California can handle earthquakes and fires, but they don’t handle rainfall very well. The main track was sealed and with the horses that were left, after a bevy of scratches, promoted early speed, as 9 of the 10 races were won by front runners. But all was well by Sunday, as the rain stopped, the main track went back to being fair, and the races were back on the grass, albeit with a course rated as “good”.  Racing resumes on Thursday this week with their normal four day race week. The popular 20 cent pick six wager, which allows everyone to participate, has yet to be hit by a single ticket holder. The carry over amount into Thursday is up to $512,056.

•    They ran just two stakes over the weekend and neither one was graded. On Saturday, they had a decent field for the California Distaff Handicap for five furlongs on the turf, but due to overnight rain, the race was shifted to the main track and lost a number of its runners. With the surface promoting speed from the track being sealed, Loveahoneybadger made every pole a winning one and paid $6.80 to win. However, the horse to take out of this race was S Y Sky from the Phil D’Amato barn. She had not been to the post in 15 months and ran on gamely for second against the speed bias and was only beaten a length and a quarter at the wire, see our Horses to Watch list for the week. On Sunday, Baffert’s Chasing Yesterday won the Anoakia stakes for two year old fillies at 3 to 5 in a field of just five. However, this half sister to American Pharoah was all out to get by the second choice in the wagering, It’sjustanillusion. She is very quick, made all the running on the front end through splits of 21.49 and 44.72, and begrudgingly gave up the lead very late. She lost by just a half length and is every bit as good as the winner. The difference in the race probably came down to post position draw, as the winner was on the outside and the runner up was down on the inside. I’m sure they will meet again somewhere down the road.

•    Stakes action is limited once again this week with just two events. On Saturday, they are going to try the five furlongs on the turf once again for state breds in a race they call the California Flag Handicap, named for the “salty” Cal bred runner who loved coming down the hill for trainer Brian Koriner. Richard’s Boy heads up that field and will get leading rider Flavian Prat while Eddie Haskell is one of the main contenders. No rain is in the forecast this week. Then two year olds are in the spotlight on Sunday in the Sunny Slope stakes at six and a half on the main. Sparky Ville for Jeff Bonde heads up that field and will be ridden by Gary Stevens, who is riding very well at this meet. He had the hat trick last Friday from a limited amount of mounts.

•    The “big” horses were out Sunday morning for workouts as Accelerate, West Coast, and McKinzie all drilled for the Breeders Cup Classic which is less than three weeks away at Churchill Downs. Accelerate, who is the future B/C Classic favorite went an easy half mile in 47.80, galloping out 5/8 in 1:01.20. Baffert had West Coast go 5/8 in 59.40 under Van Dyke, and he galloped out ¾ in 1:12 flat. McKinzie went ¾ in 1:12 flat under Joe Talamo. Both Baffert and John Sadler were very happy with the drills and Baffert appeared loaded once again for the Classic, which he has won three straight years. Sadler, who trains Accelerate, is 0/41 in Breeders Cup races. Yes, trends do matter.

•    Lawsuits happen all the time in this country, just ask our President, but one has to be concerned when the owner of both Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields files a $400 million suit against his daughter and another managing associate for mismanagement of company funds. 86 year old Frank Stronach, who owns 1/3 of the tracks in this country, filed suit in Toronto, Canada against his daughter Belinda, and former CEO Alon Ossip. Tim Ritvo, the chief operating officer of the Stronach Group, says this will not affect day to day operations, but one has to wonder. Stronach has never been an easy one to work for, and Ritvo has lasted much longer than most. Frank has basically been in retirement the last couple of years and Belinda has been running the company, but that may change now that Frank wants to step back in, which is another legal matter all of its own. The saga will continue and we will keep you posted on the upcoming details.

•     Young jockey Drayden Van Dyke won two on Sunday and now has tied Flavian Prat for the riding title here at Santa Anita with 11 wins apiece. The apprentice Asa Espinoza is two back with nine followed by 55 year old Gary Stevens with eight. Peter Miller leads all trainers with 10 wins after three weeks, closely followed by Bob Baffert, Doug O’Neill, and Jerry Hollendorfer, all with 8. Baffert has the best win percentage of anyone in the top 12 winning at a 42% clip, 8 for 19.

By Rod Young (Turfdom)

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